hell hole prisons

ON BRINK OF DEATH: A file picture showing starving Zimbabwean prisoners.29/03/09. © UNknown.
ON BRINK OF DEATH: A file picture showing starving Zimbabwean prisoners.29/03/09. © UNknown.

Vusi Ndlovu

Vusi Ndlovu

SABC's investigative journalism programme Special Assignment will tonight flight gruesome portrayal of a humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe's prisons in an exclusive edition called Hell Hole.

The programme, shown on SABC3 every Tuesday at 9.30pm, will show prisoners on the brink of death in three of Zimbabwe's prisons.

The programme's executive producer, Johann Abrahams, said yesterday that they decided to work on the project after many reports about prisoners living in life-threatening conditions in that country's prisons.

"One of our investigators, Godknows Nare, made contacts in prisons in that country. We spoke to inmates and people working within the system. We planted cameras inside the prisons and people came out with the footage. Some were taken by cellphone cameras," Abrahams said.

In an investigation that took three months, prison officials filmed day-to-day events inside the prisons on hidden cameras. In one footage, cameras follow Brian Gumbo, a man who was sentenced to two years for housebreaking.

He has served half of his term and is gravely ill.

He is seen moving from his cell to a room where he receives a bowl of sadza (a thick porridge made from maize meal). The man, like many prisoners, is suffering from pellagra - a deficiency disease caused by a lack of vitamin B3 and proteins.

The programme also features wheelchair-bound Brian Brighton. The prisons are in Harare, Mudadi and Beit Bridge.

The programme also reveals a report from Zimbabwean Association for Crime Prevention and Rehabilitation of Offenders, which says that at least 20 prisoners die each day from 55 prisons in Zimbabwe.

Abrahams said some of the prisoners in the footage have since died.